In Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, is Julius Caesar really as ambitious as the conspirators think he is? If yes, why? If not, why not?
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In Julius Caesar, as in Roman accounts of Julius Caesar's life, the extent of his ambition is an ever-present question. In his play on the life of the Roman emperor, Shakespeare makes his answer to the question of Caesar's ambition apparent from the very first scene. In the first scene, Julius Caesar announces his intention to be crowned as emperor (and dictator - though Shakespeare uses the term "king"), the highest authority. Becoming emperor, an absolute ruler, is the highest possible ambition. At this point, it is clear that Caesar can talk the talk, but whether he can walk the walk still remains a question. Based solely on his admission in the opening scene of the play, the conspirators would require more justification for their concerns.
Julius Caesar's assassination occurs before the midpoint of the play, so he does not really offer much tangible evidence of his ambition. He has not had the time to "walk the walk" by the time he is assassinated. Since Caesar has not had the time to really fulfill his political ambitions, at least those ambitions the conspirators have built up in their mind as Caesar's true goal, one cannot really estimate the extent of his ambitions. While Caesar does become emperor, the absolutist aspect of his ambition fails to be realized.
From these two circumstances, it would seem that the extent of Caesar's ambitions are overstated. It stems more from the ambitions of the conspirators than Caesar's own ambitions. When Julius Caesar declares his goal of becoming emperor at the Feast of Lupercal at the opening of the play, the conspirators are already plotting his assassination, suggesting the extent of Caesar's ambitions is a mere aid to the conspirators fulfilling their own. The conspirators talk much more of Caesar's ambition than his ambition actually manifests itself.
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